Leaders of Cambridgeshire companies have
reacted cautiously to government proposals to abolish the rules on
workers' retirement ages.
At present, employment contracts usually
set a retirement age of 60 years for women and 65 for men. As part of
plans to end the sex discrimination imposed by these different
retirement ages the government wants to force companies to retain
employees until they themselves decide to retire.
The Eastern Branch of the Institute of
Directors - which represents nearly 1,000 company directors in
Cambridge, Huntingdon, Peterborough and surrounding towns and villages
- says it can see both advantages and problems with abolishing
contractual retirement ages.
Stephanie Smye, chairman of the Eastern
Branch, said: "There can be many benefits to employers if people
work beyond their normal retirement age. Many firms have flexible
arrangements in place already. Companies can then retain employees
with skills and experience, maintain stability in the workplace and
reduce recruitment costs."
"The employees themselves may gain
not just financially but also from the social and other benefits of
continuing at work."
Miss Smye herself has remained at work as
a director of Peterborough-based marketing and public relations
consultancy Smye Holland Associates although she has passed 'official'
retirement age, lately working on a part-time basis. She says the
flexibility of these arrangements has helped both her and the company
- but she does not believe she should have the right to dictate the
age at which she will retire.
"Allowing the employee alone to make
the decision on when he or she retires could be dangerous and
irresponsible. One can think of many jobs - such as lorry drivers,
doctors and those dealing with heavy machinery - where it could put
the employees themselves or other people at risk. More typically, it
may not be in the interests of the business for people to remain at
"The law should allow flexibility.
Employers should be able to negotiate retirement ages with employees,
allowing them to continue to use their skills and allowing employers
to continue to benefit from them - but only for as long as both
parties wish to do so."